Join us: Alec Ross, Sr Advisor on Innovation, US State Dept to Speak at NDN Monday, April 12, 2010 re: Open and Closed Societies

We here at NDN are very excited to have Alec Ross, Senior Advisor on Innovation at the US Deparmtent of State joining us at NDN.  On Monday, April 12, 2010 Mr. Ross will deliver remarks on connection technologies in open and closed socieities. 

Please click here to RSVP.

In recent years, connection technologies have played an ever-greater role in promoting freedom and openness around the world. In states such as Iran, China, and Egypt, people have been empowered by new tools: social media, mobile phones, the Internet, text messages, online social networks, and others. The Obama Administration has taken a leading role in protecting the exercise of universal freedoms including the freedom to connect, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly on digital media, as outlined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her historic speech on Internet freedom in January. The State Department has been working hard to use connection technologies to advance the causes of human rights and freedom in our increasingly networked and borderless world.

One of the leaders of this initiative is Alec Ross, Senior Adviser on Innovation to the Secretary of State. Before joining the State Department, Ross served as the convener for technology, media, and telecommunications policy for Obama for America and for the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team where he focused on technology, innovation, and government reform. In 2000, Ross co-founded One Economy, a non-profit, three-person basement operation which, until 2008, he helped lead and grow to the world's largest digital divide organization that connects low-income people to the tools of the digital age.

On April 12, at 12pm, the Global Mobile Technology Initiative, a joint project of NDN and the New Policy Institute, will host Ross as he delivers a speech on the role of connection technologies in open and closed societies. His address will focus on the tension between societies that are increasingly open by virtue of connection technologies, and societies that are increasingly closed by government suppression and manipulation of connection technologies and communications networks.

Please RSVP if you'll be joining us. If not, a live webcast of the event will begin at 12:15 pm.

Updated Weekly on Immigration: Mexico Leans Into Immigration Issue; More on Immigrants and the Economy

Last Updated 2:22 pm, 4/27/09

I. U.S. Citizens Caught in the Broken Immigration System – A USA Today op-ed follows my post on individuals ICE has detained illegally.

II."There Will Be Immigration Reform With the U.S.," Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs  - In a move that has not been seen since the early days of the Fox Administration, the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa, openly discussed the issue of immigration and provided assurances that Mexico will reach agreements with the U.S. on the issue of immigration reform thanks to the renewed relationship between the two countries.  This is an important departure from the Mexican government's traditional stance - it has consistently held that immigration reform is strictly a U.S. domestic issue, and as such it is not its place to intervene in this area of U.S. legislation.   However, binational Mexican citizens in the U.S. are putting increasing pressure on Mexico to work with the U.S. and push for a functional immigration system.  Milenio - a widely circulated national periodical in Mexico - reported Secretary Espinosa "will insist on immigration reform that meets the demands of Mexicans who live abroad."  A large majority of Mexicans in the U.S. are permanent residents or citizens who remain concerned about solving the broken immigration system.  The Secretary delivered these comments before the 13th Annual Meeting of the Advisory Board to the Institute for Mexicans Abroad held April 21-25; she highlighted that Mexico is making progress on the immigration front, including enacting reforms to its own General Law on Population. 

III. More on Foreign Workers and the Economy -  Following last week’s discussion on foreign workers and the economy, this week we have more on H-1B legislation introduced by Sens. Durbin and Grassley.  The legislation is specifically damaging to Indian companies because it prohibits firms that have over 50% of staff on H-1B and L-1 visas from hiring more people on these two visas. This would affect all large IT companies, which have branch offices and subsidiaries in the US that are staffed largely by H-1B visa holders.  IT companies are speaking out in opposition to the move, Economic Times reports:

Criticizing the move, commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath said it will restrict the ability of Indian IT companies to compete in the US. “This is certainly not in line with the US President’s stand against protectionism at the recent London G20 meeting and our desire to mainstream development in the Doha negotiations,” Mr. Nath said in a statement on Friday.

Kamal Nath pointed out that besides being the fast-growing market for US exports, Indian IT firms have also helped American companies become globally competitive. “I would, therefore, urge that the lawmakers, administration and the US business community ensure that the contents of the bill do not come in the way of the growing India-US trade partnership,” he said.

Many of the big Indian IT exporters have started recruiting locally but the numbers are still small. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for instance, has stepped up its local recruitment in recent years but the number of locals employed by the firm is still around 10,000 globally. 

“What the US needs is comprehensive reform. The number of H-1B visa holders is very small compared to the number of tech and other jobs in the US. It should not be related to job losses in the US,” said Nasscom president Som Mittal. He said the Nasscom was willing to work with US authorities and help them if there was abuse of visas.

An interview on the Satellite radio Bob Edwards show discussed a recent study that found: America's Loss is the World's Gain as the U.S. resists highly talented and skilled foreign professionals.  Researcher Vivek Wadhwa led a group that surveyed 1200 Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked in the US for a year or more, or had received their education here, only to return to their home countries.  Wadhwa argues that if these skilled workers felt welcomed and stayed here, they would launch companies and create far more jobs for American workers than they leave by heading home or by never coming to the US in the first place.

Reuters writes about how legalizing the undocumented would affect the economy, and a Wall Street Journal op-ed today on Why We Need an Immigration Stimulus:

The pace of lower-skilled migration has slowed due to higher unemployment. This could make it less contentious to ease the path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers and their families in the U.S. It's also a good time to ask why we turn away skilled workers, including the ones earning 60% of the advanced degrees in engineering at U.S. universities. It is worth pointing out the demographic shortfall: Immigrants are a smaller proportion of the U.S. population than in periods such as the late 1890s and 1910s, when immigrants gave the economy a jolt of growth. Immigrants have had a disproportionate role in innovation and technology. Companies founded by immigrants include Yahoo, eBay and Google. Half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants, up from 25% a decade ago. Some 40% of patents in the U.S. are awarded to immigrants. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that immigrants are 50% likelier to start businesses than natives. Immigrant-founded technology firms employ 450,000 workers in the U.S. And according to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started one quarter of all U.S. venture-backed firms.

IV. Timing of Immigration Reform - An article by Georgetown University Law Center Dean Aleinikoff:

The Obama administration recently signaled interest in beginning a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform before year's end. It might seem that a severe economic downtown is not the best time for a major legislative initiative on immigration. But starting this conversation now makes sense for several reasons…

The legislative initiative discussed in this article is not precisely CIR.  Dean Aleinikoff believes that Congress should hold off on passing comprehensive legislation and first develop a credible E-verify system and then a legalization program.

V. Latin America Has the Highest Levels of Migration – According to a recent study by the World Bank, Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest levels of net migration among all developing regions.  Migration from these countries to developed countries totaled 18.5 million persons between 2000 and 2005.  The World Bank also found that remittances sent to developing countries totaled $300 billion last year - Latin American countries received 63 billion dollars in remittances in 2007, second only to the region of East Asia and the Pacific.  Mexico received 43% of total remittances in 2007.  As the world faces a severe financial crisis, developing countries that had enjoyed a period of consistent growth and prosperity now face the same challenges that affect developed nations.

VI. Lawyer Makes Case Against Immigrant Myths – Dallas Morning News covered a new book, Hispanic Heresy: What Is the Impact of America's Largest Population of Immigrants? – released in January and written by a Dallas lawyer and two Texas Tech University business professors.   The book aims to dispel many of the myths about immigrants and Hispanics that have received too much air time on TV talk shows other media:

While politicians may debate the merits of immigration reform, many economists and researchers have already made up their minds: Immigrants contribute far more to the U.S. economy than they take.

A Laptop in Every Backpack

Publish Date: 

Click here for the PDF

A single global communications network, composed of Internet, mobile, SMS, cable and satellite technology, is rapidly tying the world’s people together as never before. The core premise of this paper is that the emergence of this network is one of the seminal events of the early 21st century. Increasingly, the world’s commerce, finance, communications, media and information are flowing through this network. Half of the world’s 6 billion people are now connected to this network, many through powerful and inexpensive mobile phones. Each year more of the world’s people become connected to the network, its bandwidth increases, and its use becomes more integrated into all that we do. Connectivity to this network, and the ability to master it once on, has become an essential part of life in the 21st century, and a key to opportunity, success and fulfillment for the people of the world. We believe it should be a core priority of the United States to ensure that all the world’s people have access to this global network and have the tools to use it for their own life success. There is no way any longer to imagine free societies without the freedom of commerce, expression, and community, which this global network can bring. Bringing this network to all, keeping it free and open and helping people master its use must be one of the highest priorities of those in power in the coming years. This paper offers thoughts on one piece of this commitment – how we best bring the power of this network to America’s schoolchildren. Achieving the American Dream in this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools – how to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas using these new tools, how to type and even edit video. We believe we need a profound and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for success in this century, to all American school children.

Executive Summary

A single global communications network, composed of Internet, mobile, SMS, cable and
satellite technology, is rapidly tying the world’s people together as never before. The core
premise of this paper is that the emergence of this network is one of the seminal events
of the early 21st century.  Increasingly, the world’s commerce, finance, communications,
media and information are flowing through this network.  Half of the world’s 6 billion
people are now connected to this network, many through powerful and inexpensive
mobile phones.  Each year more of the world’s people become connected to the network,
its bandwidth increases, and its use becomes more integrated into all that we do. 
Connectivity to this network, and the ability to master it once on, has become an
essential part of life in the 21st century, and a key to opportunity, success and
fulfillment for the people of the world. 
We believe it should be a core priority of the United States to ensure that all the world’s
people have access to this global network and have the tools to use it for their own life
success. There is no way any longer to imagine free societies without the freedom of
commerce, expression, and community, which this global network can bring.  Bringing
this network to all, keeping it free and open and helping people master its use must be
one of the highest priorities of those in power in the coming years.  
This paper offers thoughts on one piece of this commitment – how we best bring the
power of this network to America’s schoolchildren.  Achieving the American Dream in
this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools – how
to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas
using these new tools, how to type and even edit video.  We believe we need a profound
and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for
success in this century, to all American school children.  
We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child.  We
need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.  
These laptops need to be wirelessly connected to the Internet, and children need to be
able to take them home.  Local school districts should choose how best to do this, but
there needs to be federal funding and simple, federal standards.  Funds and strategies
for how training our teachers to lead this transformation need to be part this
We believe it will cost at first $2 billion a year to provide every 6th grader a laptop,
about what we spend in Iraq every week. Hardware costs continue to plummet each
year, and the idea of a $200 laptop or classmate PC is coming ever closer to reality.  It is
not a question of resources, but of vision and political will.  Libya has just announced a
national commitment to give all its school children a laptop.  If Libya can do it, so can
Giving our children the tools for computer literacy is the 21st century equivalent to
teaching them how to read.  In the “flat world” described by Tom Friedman, there can be
no life success without it this knowledge, no real chance to seize the American Dream,
no secure and prosperous road to the middle class.  We believe giving every school child
a laptop must be an essential part of any strategy to ensure broad-based prosperity for
America in the 21st century.  
So, let’s look at what it might require to put a laptop in every backpack.  

Current Conditions

The starting point for participation in today’s global communications network is to own
a computer and have Internet access.  According to the Pew Internet and American Life
Project and Intel Corporation, there are still 30 million American households that do not
have a computer.1  This gap in access has become progressively more troubling as
technology has progressed from a tool that provides a competitive advantage to a
baseline need for social, civic, economic and educational participation.  Students in the
21st century must be equipped with the skills and tools to succeed and participate in our
increasingly technology-rich, knowledge-based economy.  For school-age children, the
consequences of not being a part of the digital age are daunting. Technology has become
increasingly important for academic success, as computer and high-speed Internet access
are shown to raise students’ test-taking aptitude and provide a superior resource for
homework help, school research and information gathering. 
The irony of this situation is that in the 1990s, the United States held the position of
world leader in pioneering technology applications and the Internet.  Our innovation had
a profound impact on our and the world’s economic and educational growth.  For
example, within the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the E-Rate program was created
which ensured that all schools, rural or urban, rich or poor, have affordable Internet
access.  According to the American Youth Policy Forum, today 98% of American schools
have access to the Internet because of the E-Rate program2.  In addition, investments by
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the 1990s allowed for the near ubiquity of
Internet access (98.9%) in public libraries around the country3.
Despite our early lead in developing technology applications and policies, in recent
years we have lost our leadership position.  According to the International
Telecommunication Union, the United States has fallen to 15th in the world in
broadband penetration rates.4  
Innovation has shifted as education systems abroad have recognized the need for
technology in education.  The lack of leadership demonstrated in the United States,
juxtaposed with the advances that have taken place abroad, will put us in a less
competitive position tomorrow.
In addition to these issues of technology leadership, the U.S. is lagging behind because
access to computers and the Internet in this country are still somewhat related to income
and race.  A study from a May 2006 Report by the Pew Internet and American Life
Project found that only 21% of people earning less than $30,000 a year have broadband
access, whereas 68% of households earning $75,000 or more a year have access.5 
According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, 63.9% of white
households have a computer in their home and 57% have access to Internet. Only 44.6%
of African-Americans have a computer in their house and only 36% had access to
Internet. Among those of Hispanic origin, 44.3% have a computer in their household and
36% have access to Internet. Asian Americans fared better than any other racial group
with 72.9% having a computer in their household and 66.7% having Internet access.6 
Those gaps are closing, but we need to close them faster.
America must re-establish itself as a leader in preparing our children to participate in
the global economy by ensuring that all public school children regardless of race, income
or geography have access to the tools of the 21st century digital age.  
Outside experts estimate initial costs of $2 billion in the first year, which will enable
every 6th grader in America to acquire a laptop. Once implemented, increased costs
would be incremental rather than exponential and will rise over time, depending on the
decisions of policymakers about how quickly and how broadly to scale implementation
to additional grade levels. The constantly decreasing costs and increasing life-span of
hardware will help mitigate cost increases and there are achievable economies of scale
that can be reached depending on the choices of our policymakers.

Computers in the Classroom

To begin preparing all children for participation in today’s global communications
network, we must ensure that there is a laptop in every 6th grader’s backpack to use in
the classroom and at home.  Not only is computer access a fundamental necessity to
participate in today’s global communications network, it also significantly enhances
academic performance and student achievement.
A study by Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) reports:
• “Positive evidence supporting computers’ effectiveness” showing that computer
and technology use increases the aptitude of a child who is performing at the 50th
percentile level to between the 59th and 72nd percentile.
• Lower-achieving students experience much greater benefits from access to
computers than those who are already high-achieving students.  
• Home computer users scored, on average, three to five percentage points higher
than students without home computers.7 
In a decade-long series of studies, students in classes that use computer-based
instruction outperformed their peers on standardized tests of basic skills achievement
significantly.8  These benefits occur because technology provides a teacher with an
arsenal of tools that are more effective than basic textbooks.  By providing students
with computers in the classroom, they can engage with real-time information not
included in textbooks, access resources without having to wait for a free computer in a
lab, and master multimedia presentation and communication skills.
Teachers who use computers in the classroom can drill students on specific topics for
which they need extra help.  Computer programs provide individualized instruction and
instant feedback that motivates students to continue with their lessons. Moreover,
curricula can be geared to meet the particular learning needs of students and can allow
them to gather their own information and resources.  The use of laptops can also allow
school districts to save significantly on text books, while connecting their students to
diverse sources of content that are the best available in their respective subject areas.
This is not to suggest that traditional materials should be eliminated and that
conventional classroom instruction should be discarded, but rather that by leveraging the
tools of technology we can overcome some of the instructional constraints found in the
four walls of a classroom with one teacher and thirty students.  
The innovation of the Internet reduces the barriers of race, income and geography in
America’s public school system.  Young people, whether they reside in geographically
isolated rural communities or attend a failing inner city school, can have access to
premiere educational resources with the click of a mouse.  That access provides a robust
set of course options available online from foreign language to Advanced Placement
Further, more than 90% of students aged 12 to 17 use the Internet to find “better
information” than the information found in schoolbooks.9  This is particularly useful in
under-performing schools where resources may not be available and textbooks are often

Computers at Home

Evidence supports that students should have the opportunity to take home a computer
in the same way they would a textbook.  Providing a laptop for every schoolchild
creates equality between those who have computers at home, and those who don’t.   
The ability to take a computer home is critically important.  For example, students
report that their daily use of the Internet drastically differs from in-school Internet use. 
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Internet and computer reliance
to complete homework assignments takes place primarily “outside of the school day,
outside of the school building, outside of the direction of [students’] teachers.”10  By
providing students with access to a laptop, students can go online at any time and in
any location to access tutoring and homework help.  
According to a recent survey, among high school age children (ages 12-17) the following
statistics have been reported:
• 80% of students have coursework that requires using the Internet at home.
• Almost 65% of students utilize the Internet to work on school assignments at
• Nearly 60% of students aged 12 to 17 use the Internet to access dictionaries,
thesauruses and encyclopedias.11
It also provides an opportunity for parents to use the laptop for educational and asset
building purposes.  A recent study of One Economy’s work funded by the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation and conducted by SRI International and the Pew Internet
and American Life Project found that adults who were provided with a home computer
used it for a variety of purposes including to:
• Search for and apply for jobs.
• Make purchases and pursue educational opportunities.
• Engage in banking and take classes online.
• Exchange e-mail, make informational inquiries, read or listen to the news,
conduct research for school, and interact with friends.
In addition, technology offers new and exciting ways for families to increase involvement
in their children's education by checking progress reports, attendance and test results as
well as assignments through schools’ websites.  Laptop ownership at home and at
school facilitates a greater level of collaboration among students, teachers, and parents
and results in greater academic success.

Why Now

In today’s 21st century global communications network, it is no longer just a competitive
advantage for schoolchildren to have access to a computer.  It is now a prerequisite for
children to have this access both inside and outside of the classroom.  
The fat envelopes that used to be stuffed in the mail by college applicants every year no
longer exist.  Today’s high school seniors apply online and upload digital files of their
grades, essays, and recommendations to the university’s network
Furthermore, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in professional,
scientific, and technical services will increase by 28.4% and add 1.9 million new jobs by
2014. Employment in computer systems design and related services will increase by
39.5% and account for almost one-fourth of the 1.9 million new jobs created in
professional, scientific, and technical services.  Additionally, management, scientific,
and technical consulting services also will grow by 60.5%, prompted by the increased
use of new technology and computer software.12
It is not just increased professional opportunities that demand technology skills, in
today’s global communications network people are using their computers for a variety of
major undertakings.  The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that over a
three-year period, Internet use grew by:
• 54% in the number of adults who said the Internet played a major role as they
helped another person cope with a major illness. And the number of those who
said the Internet played a major role as they coped themselves with a major
illness increased 40%. 
• 45% in the number who said the Internet played a major role as they made major
investment or financial decisions. 
•  43% in the number who said the Internet played a major role when they looked
for a new place to live. 
• 23% in the number who said the Internet played a major role when they bought a
car. 13
Our young people must be equipped with the tools necessary to navigate through
today’s global communications network.  One advantage today versus the 1990s is that
the costs for the tools of the digital age have been significantly reduced.  In recent years,
as the cost for computing devices and broadband decreases and connectivity and
mobility of these devices increases, there are fewer practical concerns surrounding the
implementation of a program to provide every child a mobile, computing device.  

Success Stories

Beginning in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1990s, and followed soon after with other
technology initiatives, urban and rural communities across the country began reporting a
widespread increase in positive academic outcomes through the use of technology.  
Boston, MA
In 1998, Boston became the first major urban school district to build high-speed
technology networks in each of its school buildings and public libraries. In
addition to the district’s network construction, Boston developed the Technology
Goes Home initiative, providing access, training, and curriculum through public
schools.  Boston schools also offered student graduates and their family’s new
computers, printers and Internet access for less than $15 per month. The
cumulative result of these programs was a 15% increase in the number of
graduates attending college from the previous district average of 65% to 80%.14 
Henrico County, VA
Henrico County, Virginia has one of the largest "one-to-one computing" initiatives
of any school district in the U.S.  In one survey 97% of mathematics and science
teachers reported that the computers have helped students to learn these
challenging subjects, and 59% report that the laptops have helped "a lot" or "a
great deal.”  In addition, more than 80% of students reported that it is "helpful"
or "very helpful" to have a computer to use for their schoolwork. These reports
were corroborated when state standardized test scores increased and dropout
rates decreased.15
In Maine, where the Department of Education has equipped all the state’s 7th
and 8th grade students and teachers with access to wireless internet-enabled
laptop computers for the past 4 years, students are completing more homework
and misbehaving less than in previous years.  Moreover, there is improved
student interaction with teachers, particularly among at-risk and low-achieving
students, and improved class participation and student motivation.  In addition,
more than 75% of teachers reported that having the laptops helped them better
meet Maine’s statewide learning standards.16
Greene County, NC: A Model Success Story
Perhaps most striking is the example of Greene County, a small rural county in eastern
North Carolina.  Predominantly agrarian, Greene County has been ranked as the county
most dependent on tobacco production in North Carolina, and the second most tobacco
dependent county in the United States.  Generations of Greene County farmers have
harvested and sold flue-cured tobacco. 
In recent years, the tobacco industry has seen a significant decline in its popularity and
prosperity.  Domestic tobacco sales plunged from $47.7 billion in 1990 to only $18.9
billion in 2000, and the numbers continue to plummet.  As the demand for tobacco has
fallen, the number of unemployed agricultural workers has risen.  Today, 70% of Greene
County’s K-12 schoolchildren receive free or reduced-price lunches. 
The economy in rural North Carolina is changing and workers must adapt to a new
economic order.  A 1999 survey showed that an unprecedented 30% of North Carolina
farmers expected to give up tobacco farming in their lifetime, and 68% were interested in
expanding to other enterprises.  
Beginning in November 2003, a diverse team of stakeholders including the Greene
County local government, the school system, grassroots leaders, and social service
providers partnered with One Economy to respond to the economic changes in our
increasingly technology-rich, knowledge based economy. The partnership is rooted in
activities to:
• Bring ubiquitous access to broadband and computing to Greene County.
• Improve the economic livelihood of county residents.
• Increase the economic competitiveness of Greene County.
• Improve academic performance among county-schoolchildren.
The technology investment began at the school-level by bringing Apple iBook computers
to each 6th through 12th grader in Greene County, with 85% of these computers traveling
home every evening with the students.

The Opportunity to Provide a Laptop for Every American Schoolchild

Despite the unambiguous case for ensuring every American schoolchild has a computer,
it remains increasingly likely that unless a national initiative is put into place, millions of
students, most likely inner-city minorities and low-income residents of rural
communities, will remain isolated from technology and its inherent benefits.  
It is essential that our children be provided with access to the tools that are necessary to
navigate and participate in the global communications network.  Without deep fluency
in the new tools offered to them through this startling information revolution, our
children will be at a competitive disadvantage and their opportunity for life success will
be diminished.  America’s policymakers must ensure that no matter where people live
public school children have the skills necessary to be active participants in the emerging
society of the 21st century.  
We can start this process by committing, together, to put on a laptop in every backpack
of every American school child. 
Greene County by the Numbers

Educational Outcomes


  • SAT composite scores increased by 41 points since the beginning of the project.
  • High school proficiency scores increased from 53% to 78.4% since 2003.
  • More than 80% of the 2006 Senior Class applied to college compared to 28% of the
    2004 Senior Class.  

 Economic Development Outcomes


  • Last year, twelve new businesses were attracted and opened in Greene County after
    years of negative business growth.

Improved Broadband Availability


  • Broadband access increased from 10% to 90%. 
  • More than a dozen church and community buildings have become hot spots for free
    Internet access and these locations are the host for the free technology training.


About the Authors

Alec Ross is the Executive Vice President for External Affairs and a co-founder of One
Economy, a multinational nonprofit organization that works to maximize the potential
of technology to help low-income people enter the economic mainstream.
Simon Rosenberg is the President and Founder of NDN, a progressive think tank and
advocacy organization committed to meeting the governing challenges of the 21st century. 
Send comments to, or leave a public comment on NDN’s blog, at

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Maine Department of Education. Available online at:

Hispanic Heritage Month 2008

Every year the United States takes a time out from September 15-October 15 to recognize the contributions of Hispanics in the United States as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanics are now recognized as the largest minority in the U.S. - the Census estimates that by 2042 one in four persons will be of Hispanic origin. As this year's Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off this week, it becomes clear that an unprecedented number of Latino voters could decide this year's election, Latinos are increasingly represented in government and industry, Latinos are a growing force in the media - as evidenced by the launch of shows like "Agenda" and "Al Punto" on Spanish language networks, and Hispanics are also becoming web and technology users in rapidly growing numbers.

For these reasons and more, the Pew Hispanic Center reported this week on a survey it conducted on the overall state of Latinos. The report reflects how Hispanics are bearing much of the current economic crisis, combined with suffering increased instances of discrimination.

Half (50%) of all Latinos overall (native and foreign born) say that the situation of Latinos in this country is worse now than it was a year ago, according to this nationwide survey of 2,015 Hispanic adults (higher than the average for non-latinos). Fully 63% of Latino immigrants say that the situation of Latinos has worsened over the past year. In 2007, just 42% of all adult Hispanic immigrants - and just 33% of all Hispanic adults - said the same thing. These increasingly downbeat assessments come at a time when the Hispanic community in this country--numbering approximately 46 million, or 15.4% of the total U.S. population--has been hit the hardest by rising unemployment.

Due mainly to the crisis in the housing and construction industry, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in the U.S. rose to 7.3% in the first quarter of 2008, well above the 4.7% rate for all non-Hispanics, and well above the 6.1% rate for Hispanics during the same period last year. As recently as the end of 2006, the gap between those two rates had shrunk to an historic low of 0.5 percentage points--4.9% for Latinos compared with 4.4% for non-Latinos, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The spike in Hispanic unemployment has hit immigrants especially hard. For the first time since 2003, the unemployment rate for Latinos not born in the United States was higher, at 7.5 percent, than the rate for native-born Latinos, at 6.9 percent, the report found. Latinos make up 14.2% of the U.S. labor force, or roughly 22 million people.

In addition to the economy, issues like immigration, access to health care, and discrimination continue to be of concern to Hispanics and to Hispanic voters. In the Pew survey, one-in-ten Hispanic adults - native-born U.S. citizens (8%) and immigrants (10%) alike - report that in the past year the police or other authorities have stopped them and asked them about their immigration status. Some Latinos are xperiencing other difficulties because of their ethnicity. One-in-seven(15%)say that they have had trouble in the past year finding or keeping a job because they are Latino. One-in-ten (10%) report the same about finding or keeping housing.

On the question of immigration enforcement, the Pew Center's research demonstrates the same data NDN found through our polling on immigration, released last week. Latinos disapprove of current enforcement-only measures - more than four-in-five Hispanics (81%) say that immigration enforcement should be left mainly to the federal authorities rather than the local police and 76% disapprove of workplace raids. Two-thirds (68%) of Latinos who worry a lot that they or someone close to them may be deported say that Latinos' situation in the country today is worse than it was a year ago, as do 63% of Latinos who have experienced job difficulties because of their ethnicity and 71% of Latinos who report housing difficulties because of their ethnicity.

Most Hispanics in the U.S. are native born, i.e., U.S. citizens legally not susceptible to deportation, therefore the fact that most Hispanics worry about raids, immigration, and even facing possible deportation reflects how the existing reckless "enforcement-only" policies are impacting not only foreign Hispanics, but U.S. citizens.

NDN has a history writing and speaking about the Hispanic community as one of the great American demographic stories of the 21st century, recognizing that it will be hard for any political party to build a 21st century political majority without this fast-growing electorate. Hispanics have become one of the most volatile and contested swing voting blocs in American politics, and they are responding to this attention. As reported in Hispanics Rising II, an analysis of the Hispanic electorate and their motivation, Hispanic immigrants are becoming increasingly involved, as reflected by the data released this week by the Immigration Policy Center, demonstrating a spike in citizenship applications. Immigrants want to be U.S. citizens, they want to apply for citizenship, often having to overcome virtually impossible obstacles to be able to pay the obscenely high application filing fees.

Therefore, political candidates will do well to pay attention to the many challenges facing Hispanics today. At the onset of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, both Presidential candidates released statements praising Hispanics' contributions to American society and their military service. The difference between the two statements is that Barack Obama also called for comprehensive immigration reform. On the other hand, John McCain didn't mention it. This is curious because polling for the last 3 or 4 years, including the latest polls conducted by NDN, consistently shows that immigration is of top concern for Hispanic voters.

Do you need to know how to use a computer to be president?

Watch for John McCain's response about 30 seconds in. Is this his "grocery store scanner" moment?

Last year, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a paper proposing univerisal access to computer training through our nation's community colleges. Senator Obama embraced the proposal as part of his community college plan. Under a hypothetical Obama Administration, John McCain might want to consider signing up to take classes.

H/T Matt Ortega at the DNC.

Putting an End to This Superdelegate Silliness

With Barack Obama's ten-state winning streak, and growing pledged delegate lead over Hillary Clinton, we are likely seeing the last gasp of the Clinton campaign in the run-up to the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4th.

If Senator Clinton doesn't win big in Texas and Ohio, the only real question left in this race pertains to the so-called superdelegates.

Will Clinton be able to hold on to the majority of her current superdelegate support, and then try to orchestrate some kind of "superdelegate coup" that would thwart the will of rank-and-file voters--in whatever way you wish to define that term (be it by Congressional district, state or national vote and delegate totals)?

That scenario seems less and less probable by the hour, with her superdelegate supporters slipping away, like so many water-torture drip...drip...drips.

What this whole situation calls for however, is a good hard look at the superdelegate process. At best, during the primary and caucus season, these superdelegates have been a superfluous distraction, confusing all concerned. At worst, the murky superdelegate system is an undemocratic way for Party power-brokers to maneuver behind the scenes--to scoop up PAC money and favors--and to possibly rig our nomination process.

Sorry, superdelegates. It's time that this bad idea meets with its demise. We don't need Super-Democrats coming in to make decisions for us. The people are perfectly capable of electing their own nominee for president.

While there's been much public hand-wringing and uproar about this superdelegate issue in recent weeks, there is only one grassroots project that has people all over the country engaging in a collaborative effort to introduce some sunlight into the shadowy superdelegate system. And, my, how our superdelegate friends have run for cover and made much ado about how they would never thwart the will of the people.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project (STP) began two weeks ago, and currently represents a partnership between my blog, LiteraryOutpost, OpenLeft, DemConWatch, HuffingtonPost and Congresspedia (which is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation). Combined, these partners have brought nearly 300 volunteers to STP, folks that are concerned about what effect the superdelegates might have on our Democratic nomination.

These volunteers are putting in time to track down vote totals, district-by-district, along with pledged delegates. Then they are tracking down, interviewing and publishing stories about the superdelegates, recording how they are currently pledged, whether they've switched, and eventually what their vote will be.

A few blasé voices here and there have said we don't need to worry about the superdelegates this time around. But the point is: We should never have to worry about them again.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project, when completed, will provide evidence to make that argument forcefully. No longer will we have to speak in hypotheticals about what superdelegates probably did or didn't do. This time, we'll have a first-ever, complete set of data that tracks the nitty-gritty of superdelegate behavior--district by district.

As the New York Times said, "[STP] is the kind of tool that the back room bosses from 1984 could never have imagined -- and today's political bosses are probably horrified to see."

Rank-and-file Democrats will be able to make the case that early endorsements and pledges from superdelegates--those that are collected before the primaries and caucuses even begin--are only an unfair advantage for whomever the Establishment has chosen as the annointed and "inevitable" one. But guess what? It's not their call.

The Blasé Band can say what they like about how we didn't have to worry. But they miss the most important points. The Superdelegate Transparency Project moved people from concern, straight into action--and transparency is playing its very important role in keeping the superdelegates honest. Sorry, we didn't want to sit around on our couches, talking about throwing pies. We wanted to make sure this never happens again.

Next, we can use the STP data to bring all Democrats around to a necessary realization.

Superdelegates? We don't need no superdelegates!

We need a Democratic nomination process that is democratic.

[Note:If you have some time today, come join STP's Barn-Raising effort. We're trying to get the last bits of data updated, so we can begin releasing our findings to the media next week.]

[Cross-posted at HuffPO and LiteraryOutpost.]

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